The Pryor Times

January 4, 2014

Simmons retires from GRDA

PRYOR, OK — Few people have the good fortune to spend their careers doing what they absolutely love and even fewer find out what that is so early in life. But, for long-term Grand River Dam Authority employee Roger Simmons, that is exactly how it happened.

Shortly after graduating high school in North Platte, Neb., Simmons began working as an operator at the Cominco fertilizer plant in Beatrice, Neb., where his late father Warren worked. His stay in operations was brief when he applied and got a position as a laboratory technician. Though he had always enjoyed and excelled in science, Roger found he had a knack for the lab.

“I sort of fell into it, but I enjoyed it immediately,” he said.

And he’s been enjoying it ever since.

Growing up, his mother Mary and step father Doug, purchased struggling restaurants and worked turning them into successful restaurants. Fortu-

nately, they made one out of state purchase at the Spavinaw Y. It was during that one semester during his junior year he met Janey Price.

After the semester ended, they had to communicate by letter and long-distance phone calls as his family moved back to Nebraska. The correspondence continued during their senior year, when Simmons’ football team was crowned state champions. He made the eight-hour drive to see her on Christmas break and asked her to marry him. After graduation, the high school sweethearts were married in the Church of Christ in Jay and then moved to Beatrice where he would spend four years in the lab.

He moved from the fertilizer lab to the Omaha Public Power District lab where he worked in the lab on a rotating shift, operating the water plant.  After several years, the couple and their two boys heard that Grand River Dam Authority was building a coal-fired plant in Chouteau, not too far from Janey’s family. Simmons put in his application and was soon offered the position.

 “I had helped start up Unit 1 in Nebraska City and got to help start up Unit 2 here,” he said.

The move to Hudson Lake was a good one for the couple.

“The people here were very nice; Northeastern Oklahoma is a great place.”

Now with three growing boys, the couple was busy to say the least. Roger helped coach their sports teams, spent quite a bit of time in the summer sun umpiring behind the plate and was very involved with their school. He began announcing the Salina Wildcats home junior high football games in 1991, and the next year became the announcer for the high school. He also found time to assist communities struggling with water problems and was very active with the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) in Mayes County. Serving as Chairman for several years, Simmons is particularly proud of growing the LEPC from a few members to over 30 partners.

He has witnessed and been a part of quite of bit of change at GRDA; his job has become more computer driven. When he started out as a lab technician he was responsible for the operation of the water plant, main lab, and creating charts for tests. Now those charts are calculated and computed for him, but you still need to input data.

Though Simmons  has enjoyed his career and the relationships he has created through the years, it’s a new relationship that he is looking forward to developing in his retirement. His first grandchild was born on Oct. 22, Samuel Landon Simmons.

“I will be keeping him five days a week,” the proud grandfather said. “Babies and me, it’s just special. I’m looking forward to it.”

Besides doting on his grandson, Simmons plans on keeping busy with fishing and his projects. The self-proclaimed “picker” has plenty of his finds to keep him busy.

After spending his career in public power, Simmons believes in the benefits it brings.

“Public power keeps the rates down for everyone, whether you’re a public power customer or not. It gives the competitive edge which brings down the prices,” he said. “GRDA takes great care of the lakes.”